Saturday's decisions topped by Navarro
The Rays have to decide by midnight Saturday whether to tender contracts to the players on their roster, which is usually only an issue with those who are abitration eligible. The Rays have 10 in that category, but realistically are probably looking at only two decisions - C Dioner Navarro and OF Gabe Gross.
(The other eight are RHPs Grant Balfour, Lance Cormier and Matt Garza; LHPs Randy Choate and J.P. Howell, OF B.J. Upton, SS Jason Bartlett and C Kelly Shoppach.)
Gross would seem to be an obvious decision - he made $1.255-million last season and though he hit only .227 with six homers and 36 RBIs is in line for a raise as a second-year arbitration eligible. With Ben Zobrist a possibility to start in right and with Matt Joyce apparently ready to step in as the lefthanded hitting part of a platoon or backup role, Gross seems likely to be let go. For what it's worth, his name hasn't come up at all when team officials discuss their options in rightfield. As of Friday night, he hadn't heard anything from the Rays.
Navarro is a tougher decision. He made $2.1-million last season after losing in arbitration but - once again thanks to the process and precedent - is in line even after his miserable season (.218, 8 HRs, 32 RBIs, .583 OPS) for a raise to the $2.5-million to $3-million range.
With Shoppach, the catcher the Rays acquired from Cleveland also eligible for arbitration (and probably headed from his $1.95-million 2009 salary to the $2.3- to $2.7-million after his bad season), the Rays could decide to pick between the two.
It may come down to dollars, as they could negotiate with both on Saturday and keep whichever one they strike a better deal with. (Or even present both with the same below-market offer and say they keep whoever takes it first.) It's also possible the Rays will tender both of them, with the idea of letting them compete for or share the job.
They could seek to trade one, though the market has shrunk some as the Nationals signed Pudge Rodriguez and the Royals Jason Kendall (both for roughly 2 years, $6-million) and the Mets have an offer out to Bengie Molina. The Rangers are known to have some interest in Navarro.
If they are going to pick, it would seem they'd choose to keep Shoppach, since they went out to get him (though for a player to be named who doesn't have to be identified until Dec. 20), rather than Navarro, who they have had for years. But from the comments Rays manager Joe Maddon has been making, it sounds more likely they may opt to keep them both.
Among players already notified they will be nontendered are former Rays RHP Seth McClung, by Milwaukee.